In defence of Emily in Paris and basics everywhere, because she is all of us

Written by Darren Star, who also created Sex and the City and Younger, the show’s first season takes not one unexpected turn. Barely a spoiler alert: Emily gets the guy in an appropriate 10-episode arc and wins over the cold hearts of her French haters with a cringe speech about an Eiffel Tower key chain.

I live-tweeted, cleaned my apartment, and caught up on some reading while watching, and never once did I have to rewind. In other words, I loved every second of it.
Did we need another show about a privileged white girl with an improbably expensive wardrobe? No, but here we are anyway.

Much like going-out tops and pumpkin spice lattes, Netflix’s Emily in Paris has been criticised for being undeniably basic: slightly boring, completely derivative, and often pink.

I’m not alone:

Like most great romances, my love for Emily in Paris is complicated. I wanted to hate this show. Emily’s outfits are preposterous and overpriced. (Who knew you could style Off-White to look straight off the Limited Too clearance rack?) She takes selfies from a downward angle, thinks liking bread is a personality trait, and makes my job in social media look like a kitten could do it. She’s everything I dislike and more. So why couldn’t I stop watching? Why was I browsing magenta bucket hats online? It’s because I, too, am a little bit basic.

We criticise most what we see in ourselves-and Emily and I have more in common than I’d care to admit. I’m a social media editor who loves a hat moment and moved from Chicago to work in the big city (New York, not Paris, but still). I grew up dreaming of Parisian vacations, I have an entire mood board of dessert photos saved on Instagram, and I definitely rocked a charm on my Coach wristlet in middle school. I like to think my taste today is more Camille than Emily, but Parisians would understandably consider me very American and probably a bit basic. My only comfort is that unlike Emily, I’m self-aware enough to know it.

Emily in Paris is the TV equivalent of funfetti cake-comforting, silly, all-consuming-and who couldn’t use a little bit of a treat right now? With COVID-19 keeping us all at home with no good reason to get dressed up (or at all), watching the mindless splendour of Emily’s unearned career abroad in a Patricia Field wardrobe turned out to be exactly what I needed.

So throw on those Ugg slippers without shame and get cozy-we’re going deep and breaking down each aspect of Emily’s basic-ness. And why, maybe, it’s not so bad.

Emily’s career trajectory is absurd-but not impossible.

Impostor syndrome? Emily’s never heard of her. Oh, to have the confidence of a 20-something with 48 followers! Her career trajectory is an insult to every hardworking social media editor out there. It takes more than a few hashtags (SIDE NOTE: YOU CAN’T HASHTAG APOSTROPHES, EMILY!) to grow a following. What’s more, there’s a lot of daylight between Instagramming for a pharmaceutical company and a luxury couture house. That being said, basics like Emily are very generous with the likes. Back in the early days of Instagram, it was not unheard-of to go viral with a photo of French dessert. Just ask Caroline Calloway.

The berets and flannel are a lot, but it…works?

Compared with her chic French coworkers, Emily’s style leaves a lot to be desired for me. Everything she wears feels painfully American, but that’s the genius of Patricia Fields. In Chicago-I’m from Chicago, so I’m allowed to say this-any outfit worn without white skinny jeans is basically couture. It’s not a city where many women rock matching sets every day or have large designer hat collections. Emily’s style, while out of place in Paris, is decidedly dressed up (and, dare I say, not basic!) for her hometown.

Emily’s Eiffel Tower charmed life is occasionally relatable.

There’s a turning point in the show when Emily impresses her snobby French client with a speech about how basics love charms or something (I won’t bore you with the details). We’re supposed to believe the client respects Emily’s honesty and humble story about shopping at an outlet mall growing up. My main takeaway here: Shopping at outlet malls is not basic. No one-and I mean no one-is too good for a deal. Also, there are no outlet malls in Winnetka. Chicagoland’s best outlet malls are in Rosemont, Illinois. You heard it here first.

Her iced coffee makes more sense than you might think.

Emily doesn’t care that there’s a cute café on every corner in Paris-she needs her Starbucks iced coffee! I rolled my eyes at this initially and threw some shade at Emily and her plastic straw on Insta stories. But then, to my horror, one of my best friends DM’d me with a “lol you did this when we were in Paris.” I had forgotten. One morning on vacation, after a late night and subsequent screaming wine headache, I needed a straight shot of cold caffeine. After hitting a few cafés, I came to the realisation that Parisians don’t do iced coffee. So I dragged myself to Starbucks and admitted defeat. Sometimes you just need the comforts of home.

The Audrey Hepburn nods are there for a reason.

It’s a universally accepted truth that every basic has an Audrey Hepburn obsession (and a framed Breakfast at Tiffany’s poster). But there’s nothing “basic” about Audrey Hepburn. She was a style icon, humanitarian, and bona fide movie star. So can we fault the Emily in Paris creators for referencing Funny Face? No, we cannot.

Okay, the permanent blowout is a little indefensible.

There’s no Dry Bar in Paris, so we’re supposed to believe Emily wands her hair every morning in a prewar apartment with faulty wiring? Including that time she washed her hair in the bidet? I’m sorry, but her priorities are out of whack. Plus, surrounded by chic French “undone” hairstyles, her silky curls look…well, just a little bit out of place. Let’s hope Emily is finding time to deep-condition between spicy dates and influencing because this much wanding is unsustainable.

So there you have it. Emily in Paris is basic, but aren’t we all? It’s hard not to get sucked into her fantasy world as the days get shorter and lockdown draws out. When there’s nowhere to go and not much to do, Emily’s life in Paris is the comforting love-hate watch I didn’t know I needed. Come for the pastries and predictable plot twists; stay for the hot French men. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a little pumpkin-spice-flavoured entertainment. Just don’t binge the whole thing at once or it’ll make you sick.

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